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Business is social.

My friend Jeff Pulver authored a tasty piece of link-bait this morning in the form of this BusinessWeek piece titled Confessions of a LinkedIn Drop-Out.  It generated some predictable flames, like this guy who claims that Jeff doesn't understand Facebook or LinkedIn.  For me, though, it rings true. 

A couple of observations:

  1. Business is social.  In business we have meetings, lunches, dinners, events, strong relationships, weaker relationships, friendships, and rivalries.  We seek relationsips, and we seek to escape relationships. The only thing that's different about business socializing versus personal socialization is the motivation for doing so. 
  2. Relationships are always personal.  Regardless of whether we want to do business, hang out, or procreate, relationships are always forged one to one.  The argument that we have separate business and personal personas is bogus.  Long ago I merged my address book into one big unified entity.  It was easier to maintain that way, and more accurately reflected my world.

Like Jeff, I find myself spending more and more time in Facebook, and less on LinkedIn.  The social pleasantries that are the grease which makes business work are absent from LinkedIn, but present in Facebook.  For example, I've met business people who share my interest in diving, my passion for photography, and my love of food and wine through Facebook.  We now have common interests to share when the business conversation runs dry.  When I've updated Facebook status to say that I'm working on a specific problem, I've had numerous emails from people in my network offering solutions. It's the most efficient way I know to find an answer to a question. And when I've needed to contact specific people at specific companies, I've just popped off a Facebook note… no referral required. 

For me, Facebook represents a very direct and very twenty-first century way of doing business. If you need to reach a particular individual, cold call them.  Facebook makes it easy.  By contrast, LinkedIn is an encapsulation of the old-boy's network, and the class system perpetuated by Ivy League colleges.  It's not about doing business, but rather about who you know.  Harsh criticism, perhaps, but it feels accurate to me.

And because Facebook blends social and business together in such an untidy way, it serves my needs incredibly well.  Let's face it — at the age of 43, I've met more people in my life than any college student. And as I get older it's getting harder and harder to remember them all. The challenge of remembering them all is made easy by Facebook because it's all about staying in touch, and doing things with people, rather than just who you know.

So, I'm gradually uploading all of my contacts to Facebook (about a third done now) and inviting everyone I know to join.  It works for me, because at the end of the day, business is social. 

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Richard Sprague August 7, 2007, 5:47 am

    Sure, business is social, but sometimes business is business. What about those contacts who maybe you specifically don't want to be friends with, yet you tolerate because they have something you need? LinkedIn helps you stay in touch, but at an arms-distance.

    The more I use Facebook, the more I wonder how long it will be before I get Facebook Fatigue. For now it's fun catching up with old friends and making new ones, but you reach a point where it's impractical to stay that close to everyone.

  • Alec August 7, 2007, 10:10 am

    I think part of the problem is the way that Facebook uses the word
    “friends”. It’s overloaded, and what it really means is “connections”. If you put it in that context, then Facebook could use some more tools to help me better manage the types of relationships I have. I thin it needs two types of tools:

    1) It needs to allow me to better designate how much of my profile is accessible by whom. The “limited profile” vs “full profile” distinction is very primitive. I need profiles for co-workers, family, and so on as well.

    2) It needs to allow subscribers to that profile to be able to designate how much update they want to receive from that user. Perhaps a mechanism like the RSS feed categories on this blog.

    But you know… it’s better than anything else out there at the moment.

  • Tim Redpath August 8, 2007, 1:53 pm

    Interesting observations Alec (I had not seen Jeff Pulver’s Blog, so thanks for the link too).

    I have always viewed and used LinkedIn as a sort of glorified Outlook Contact Database – it’s an effective way to keep contact with old business colleagues. If they change their email address they change their entry on LinkedIn and I can always get hold of them. (Of course, that’s a big “if”).
    I have been on facebook for a few months but have yet to see value. Your blog has spurred me to go and re-look at it!

  • Recruiting Animal January 19, 2008, 5:45 pm

    I asked top internet sourcer Shally Steckerl about Facebook vs LinkedIn. He said he uses Facebook for personal reasons but LinkedIn for business. Amy Hoover, the top recruiter at TalentZoo said the same thing. These are heavy-hitters and every recruiter I know agrees.

    Facebook is more social than business and no recruiter limits herself to old boys networks on linkedin. LinkedIn is for most or many people about open networking.

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